This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

July 12, 2016

Draining, and retaining, water on your house's lot

One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to be sure that the water is draining, and being retained, correctly on your lot. When your house was built, the lot was sloped to allow rainwater to drain away (so that your house doesn't get flooded!) and also to retain the water (which keeps the neighborhood streets from being flooded). Unfortunately, over time, with modifications to properties, many times the drainage has been impaired.

It doesn't rain a lot here in the Phoenix area, but when it does, it can come down very hard and fast. So when I first bought this house, over twenty years ago, I made a point to go and take a look to see if the property was draining properly. I would grab an umbrella and just walk around the property. The way it works is this: my backyard retains a large amount of water, and when that area is filled, it begins to flow along the side of my yard, and another sizable amount of water is retained in my courtyard. When that's filled, there's a hole in the bottom of the wall in my courtyard that allows the water to drain out towards the street. From there, of course, it flows down the street and eventually ends up in the Pacific Ocean, in the Gulf of California.

Since water is precious in the desert, I've always been very careful about getting this right. I have made some modifications to the property, but I was careful to ensure that the overall slopes remained the same. Of course I don't want any danger of my house flooding, but I do want to be able to harvest the free water that falls from the sky for my garden, and also for deep watering of my trees.

If you have a property that collects water, consider designing around it, not just draining the water immediately away. Any neighborhood is made of mostly of hardscaping (buildings, driveways, sidewalks) and if the water isn't allowed to be retained, it will just flood out into the street. A lot of neighborhoods have this problem, and it isn't the fault of the city, it's the fault of the homeowners.

So, do your homework. When it rains, watch to see where you can retain it, and then drain away what you don't need.
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